This list is a supplement to my list of Western horror and supernatural comic books. While researching that list, I came across so many recommendations for the works of Japanese authors that I decided to make a separate list devoted solely to horror manga. While the current list is primarily based on manga-specific sources, I would like to emphasize that many of the titles included here are widely regarded as the foremost exemplars of the horror genre in the medium of comic books broadly conceived, regardless of language or culture. The works of Junji Ito, in particular, are mentioned more frequently than those of any other horror creator. But while Ito is the undisputed king of the macabre in sequential art, there is far more to horror manga than his works.
While I did read about one-third of the items included here, I must admit that I’m a little out of my depth when it comes to manga in general, and thus don’t feel qualified to make any sweeping statements about its representation of horror themes (or the way it differs from that of Western comics).
However, even from a layperson’s perspective, it’s easy to observe a wide range of styles and approaches. While some authors excel at disturbing graphic gore (including the notorious subgenre of ero guro), others specialize in a more subtle psychological variety of dread. Horror comedy, in which the light tone of the narrative is frequently contrasted with shocking imagery, appears to be relatively popular as well. Then there are many horror-inflected action tales and examples of the survival game drama subgenre. During my research, I cast a wide net and happily accepted every title described as horror by someone; but if you find that some of them would be more adequately described as thrillers or simply non-genre stories with unsettling themes, I won’t argue!
Personally, I found that I prefer horror manga at its most unhinged, graphic, and visceral. I’m also frequently impressed by the detailed, nightmarish designs of creatures, monsters, and demons. However, as this list demonstrates, it is only a small portion of what Japanese horror comics have to offer.